How to Create a Survey Your Students Will Take

Survey_2_shutterstock_99228650.jpgDid you know that on every Dunkin Donuts receipt there is a Survey Code? After completing a quick, online satisfaction survey you are given a confirmation number to write on your receipt. Present this to your Dunkin Donuts location and they’ll give you a donut…for free! Now that I’m properly caffeinated with my Caramel Swirl Iced Coffee and savoring a chocolate frosted donut with sprinkles, let’s talk about creating a survey that your students will also enjoy taking.

Surveys are a great way for administrators to collect information and feedback on an endless list of topics and issues. For example, in the e-book “How to Develop Your Unique Value Proposition”, author Nancy Mann Jackson writes about how Ripon College uses information obtained from surveying  students, alumni and campus visitors to shape  their programs and marketing campaigns. Melissa Anderson, vice president of marketing and communications at the College says, “With this information we are constantly growing in our understanding of why Ripon is such a special place to so many, and also some of the key things prospective students and their parents are looking for out of the overall college experience”.  

While surveys have the potential to be an effective tool to collect an array of data and actionable feedback, all are not created equal. I have taken a number of surveys in the past, or should I say “attempted to take” because while most were good surveys, others were like a chore. I found myself either rushing through them or stopping because there was no end in sight. Perhaps you’ve come across a survey such as this, where the questions being asked are confusing, the response options are poorly worded or the time commitment is too long.

How could these surveys have been better to improve audience participation? Below are 5 suggestions:


 Identify the purpose of the survey and the information that you would like to measure. Make sure the survey is easily measurable and only ask what you need to know to achieve the objectives of the survey.


Construct your survey with interesting content and relevant questions that are presented without bias and awkward wording. Incorporate closed-ended questions because they make the survey easier for the survey-taker and are less complicated for you to analyze. Keep the design simple, easy to follow, and manageable (typically about 5 minutes) for your participants to complete.

For example, a bad question may be: “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the curriculum and your performance in this class?”

 What’s wrong with this question? It’s called a double-barreled question because you are asking two questions at once. A better alternative might be to separate the questions so it makes more sense for your participants to answer and for you to analyze.


Write a compelling invitation that spells out the time commitment and explains why participation is important (i.e. your feedback will be used to help improve Product X). Administer the survey to a small test group of the targeted audience to make sure the instructions are clear and to learn how respondents may react to the survey.

A bad invitation might read: “Complete this survey, it’s important and will only take a short while”.

In contrast, a good invitation might read: “We are inviting you to take this 3 minute survey because you are a valued member of our school community. Your anonymous answers will help us to improve our website. If you have any questions please contact John Doe. Thank you for your time and feedback.”


Understand your intended audience and evaluate the best platforms (email, social media, paper handouts, etc.) and distribution schedules to meet students where they are for optimal reach.


Respect and show appreciation for both the participants’ time and feedback by sharing results or letting participants know how their contributions affected changes that impact them directly.


And as an added bonus, consider offering an incentive to improve audience participation. If this is an appropriate option for the scope of your survey and its intended audience, make sure the incentive is worth their while. A free donut for five minutes of my time? Sign me up!

To read the complete eBook “How to Develop Your Unique Value Proposition”, get your copy now!







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